As we approach the finish line for 2023 and your organization gets ready to start another year, take some time to celebrate and look back at what you accomplished. 

This year was transformative. It saw the emergence of artificial intelligence tools, increased cloud technology adoption rates, innovation to address staffing issues and so much more.  

How finance and accounting teams start 2024 will set the stage for defining the rest of the year and positioning for sustained success. Set your firm up for growth as we explore what new trends and topics will define 2024, what will stay the same for accountants, and what will change.  

The topics defining 2024

Artificial intelligence

One of the emerging topics in 2023 that will see even more discussion in 2024, artificial intelligence has potential. From transforming administrative work to improving inefficiencies, AI is here to stay.

Earlier in 2023, AI chatbot ChatGPT made headlines for passing notoriously tricky exams like the Uniform Bar Exam, the LSAT, the SAT, and other similarly challenging tests. Yet, when Accounting Today asked ChatGPT to take the four sections of the CPA test, the bot failed every part of the exam. AI currently may lack the human touch needed to succeed in accounting, but that won’t stop it from being transformative in the field. 

From automatically sorting and pairing transactions, to replicating budgets and increasing draft figures automatically, AI will help accountants do their jobs more efficiently and effectively and suggesting AI-powered optimizations. 

AI won’t replace accountants in 2024, but the power to help the industry find efficiencies is still an open book to be explored.   

Innovating to overcome staffing challenges

With the perfect storm of a workforce nearing retirement age, fewer students pursuing degrees in accounting, and accountants pursuing jobs in other fields, the field must continue to innovate to overcome staffing challenges as CPAs remain in high demand.

Nearly 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors have left their jobs in the past few years, with both young (25 to 34) and midcareer (45 to 54) professionals departing in high numbers starting in 2019, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

While the field has already begun to work to overcome these staffing challenges, the most significant change will come through the technology accountants use to do their jobs. Investing in technology that increases efficiency and is easy to use will help firms attract and retain talent. 

According to the Wolters Kluwer Annual Accounting Industry Survey, improving operational workflows, increasing employee effectiveness, and investing in new technologies that support remote work were three vital strategic goals firms targeted in 2023.

The Wolters Kluwer survey demonstrates this: 

  • 77% said that technology is helping to reduce the number of hours worked per client and by tax return;
  • 73% said technology is helping improve average client response time, and 72% said technology is helping them recruit and retain clients;
  • 62% said technology is helping them add new services.

To overcome staffing challenges, firms need to meet accountants where they’re at and ensure they have the best tools needed to succeed. These tools will feature built-in efficiencies and workflows and will help accountants get data faster through integrations. Examining your current technology and identifying ways to combine and consolidate is crucial to eliminate redundancies and become more efficient. 

Cloud technology

Organizations will continue to pivot to cloud-based technologies in the new year. The last several years have seen a broad shift to cloud technologies to accommodate remote and hybrid work.  

In 2024, the cloud will continue to improve efficiency and provide time-savings. Plus, organizations will continue to benefit from the advanced security features the cloud provides. Whereas legacy systems leave security up to the organization, cloud providers and vendors are dedicated to creating secure environments at a scale individual companies cannot replicate. 

From complying with the latest security protocols to ensuring security features like multi-factor authentication are standard with their products, cloud-based software does more to keep organizations safe while boosting productivity.  

What will change:

The role of the CFO

The role of the CFO has fully transformed from a one‑dimensional leader into one that provides strategic insights and drives growth opportunities, and 2024 is when this will emerge.  

The days of CFOs strictly managing finances and delivering reports are behind us. The modern CFO is an agile, strategic and growth influencer. Fundraising, operations, grant management, board engagement and more are all on their desk. 

A CFO’s role will go beyond just delivering accurate reports. The CFO is a leader, a strategy optimizer, and a growth-focused individual helping their team leverage the correct tools to increase efficiency and save costs. 

Seeing both the small and big picture, CFOs need to leverage insights to understand and communicate what has happened, what is happening, and what can be done to advance. They’re working to influence strategic operations, staying a step ahead and plotting which next move will be in the right direction. To do this, CFOs must leverage data, analytics and reporting to drive forward‑thinking changes.  

It’s been a long time coming, but when organizations properly leverage the combined talents of their leadership and board and expand the traditional definition of the CFO role, the growth opportunities will expand. 

As we start a new year, recognize your efforts in 2023, and always remember to take time for yourself. As we get ready to take the next steps into 2024, grab your sunglasses because the future is looking brighter than ever.  

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